Spring is the season of new life…

…and there’s lots of new and exciting things to tell you about!

Lizzy Grieve has started as our seasonal ranger at the eagle hide, and you can read more about what’s happening over on the Mull Eagle Watch blog.

Next week Peter Upton takes up the role of Visitor Services Assistant for the island of Staffa for four months so look out for him if you’re over there this year.  I’ve been getting the island ready for the season with some beachcleaning, infrastructure checks and our first seabird count of the year, black guillemots.  Thanks to Miek Zwamborn and Rutger Emmelkamp for their help and for the photos below.  Please note that there is still no access to Fingal’s cave while we continue to repair storm damage to the walkway.

Over at Burg, there is still a landslide blocking the path to the fossil tree.  It’s a lovely walk, even if you turn back at this point you’ll still get a flavour of the coastline with its flowery slopes, and chance to spot eagles and otters.  If planning to venture onto the beach and around below the landslide to rejoin the path, please take extreme care and judge for yourself the risk of more material falling from above.

Most exciting for the Fionnphort area as work has started on our new path to Creich hall after years of hard work and fundraising by the steering group.  It will make a safe off-road walking and cycling option for local journeys, and form part of several long-distance routes.  Very well done everyone, can’t wait to start using it for ranger events!

I’ve been busy with sessions for both Bunessan and Iona primary schools recently.  The older class from Iona carried out a study of the River Coladoir on a misty March day.  Bunessan nursery children visited Tiroran Community Forest to explore and learn about baby animals including eagle chicks.

We are looking forward to our Woollen Woods event at the forest, come along to celebrate the launch on Sunday 19th May or drop in for a walk anytime over the summer to spot the creatures on display.  This project has really caught people’s imaginations and we’ve loved receiving everyone’s creations, thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!

Traffic is building up again on our island roads, so if you’re not used to single track roads with passing places, please make sure you take time to watch this video before you visit and ensure stress-free driving for everyone!

Likewise please take care if visiting with your dog, especially at this time of year when lambs and ground-nesting birds are everywhere.  Make sure you keep your dog under close control and follow any local signage.

It’s also time for our events programme to get going again.  While a day of sudden bad weather cancelled my attempt at an Iona birdsong walk, Jan had better luck the following week and a lovely day with the Glengorm ranger at their Easter event.

Coming up we have a free guided walk to the mysterious Scoor Cave on 8th May in return for helping out with a beachclean as the gully there really funnels in debris off the sea.  You can join Jan on the lovely island of Ulva on the 15th May or come to Iona to learn about wildflowers on the 22nd.  Keep an eye on the events page for the full programme coming soon and we look forward to seeing you all at some point this summer!

Emily

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Spring is on the way

Snowdrops, daffodils and singing song thrushes, it must be true!  Time to think about the season ahead.  We’re recruiting for 2 more summer posts, one paid and one voluntary, see below for details.

One day at the end of January, we woke up to proper snow, unusual for here.IMG_3628

It doesn’t hang around for long though, here’s the same view later in the day.IMG_3656

There was even snow on the beach!IMG_3650IMG_3633IMG_3639

Can you spot who’s been out and about here?IMG_3632

A few days later it had mostly disappeared, and we had a perfect sunny day for a little gathering to say thank you to a few of the lovely volunteers who’ve helped us out over the last year.volunteer party 2019 cropped

If you think you might like to join them, we are recruiting for a full-time Volunteer Assistant Ranger for 3 months this summer.

This is a great opportunity to develop skills and experience in nature conservation and rangering. The role is based in Bunessan and involves assisting with varied tasks over a number of island sites including Iona and Staffa.  Tasks will include wildlife survey work, delivery of education projects and public events programme, providing information to visitors, practical maintenance. Accommodation and some travel costs will be covered.

You must show enthusiasm for wildlife and the great outdoors.  Some knowledge/ experience in the relevant field would be useful but more important is flexibility, good communication skills, an ability to work under your own initiative, and a desire to learn.  You will need to be willing and able to work inside or outside in all weathers, including some lone working in rugged coastal terrain.  Some weekend/evening hours will be required.

Closing date: 9am Monday 8th April                             Interview date: week of 29th April

For more details and an application form, email me: ewilkins@nts.org.uk (no CVs please)

 

We are also recruiting for a (paid) Visitor Services Assistant for the island of Staffa, again feel free to contact me if you’d like more details.  Application form and job description can now be downloaded directly from the NTS Vacancies page here: https://www.nts.org.uk/charity/Vacancies/  Closing date is 22nd March.

Visitor Services Assistant ad

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Staffa in early February with the snow-covered hills of Rum behind

Finally, check out our Facebook page to see some of the creatures being sent to us for Tiroran Woollen Woods!  There’s still plenty of time to join in as deadline for receiving your creations is the end of April.

 

 

You are invited to get involved with our woollen woods event. We can accept any woolly woodland creature (bird, plant,…

Posted by Mull and Iona Ranger Service on Monday, December 17, 2018

 

Thanks for reading!

Emily

Out and about this autumn

As autumn turns to winter, time for a look back at what the ranger service has been up to.  While Jan has been busy on Tobermory lighthouse path and at Calgary bay, and Mull Eagle Watch won another award, here’s what’s been happening in the south of the island:

Specialist path workers have stabilised the slope below the ladder at Burg, reducing erosion and improving access to the beach.  Unfortunately the day after they left heavy rain caused a spectacular landslide further back along the coast which completely buried the path (at grid reference NM 411 263), so if you’re planning to go the fossil tree any time soon you will need to be prepared to scramble around the bouldery beach below it, and judge for yourself the risk of falling rocks from above.

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Upper figure shows where the path used to cross the slope!

Depending on weather conditions it may be better to turn back at this point, but it’s still a lovely walk giving a taste of our dramatic coastal scenery and wildlife.  On my visit this week we were bathed in lovely winter light and enjoyed watching an otter fishing just offshore.

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November sunlight at Burg showing the iron age site of Dun Bhuirg

I’ve been helping out with beach school sessions with the younger children from Iona primary school and nursery.  Investigating rockpool life, trying out seaweed recipes and playing wildlife-related games on the sand doesn’t have to be a summer-only activity!

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How many tracks can you spot in the sand?

At Bunessan primary, afterschool nature clubs have been investigating seed dispersal and making hedgehog hibernation homes for our gardens.  Argyll and Bute council also featured our Lost Words project as a good example of raising educational attainment.

Back at the end of August, a group of Thistle Camp working holiday volunteers on Iona not only did a great job painting bridges and noticeboards, digging ditches, making stepping stones, pulling bracken and beachcleaning, but also inadvertently caused a bomb scare with this mystery object, which turned out to be the propellant canister used to launch a missile from a WWII US Navy ship!  Never a dull moment!

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Photo by Graham Arnold

I’m very grateful for everyone who gives their time and skills to volunteer throughout the year, in particular some of our younger volunteers during this Year of Young People.

Finally, here’s a sneak peek at a new project for next year.  We are going to be hosting Woollen Woods at Tiroran Community Forest.  We’ll be asking everyone to get involved by creating woolly woodland creatures (animals, plants or fungi and knitted, felted, crocheted, pom-poms, any technique you like!) to go on display at the forest next year.  Look out for more information coming soon, or if you can’t wait to get started, you can post any contributions to: Mull and Iona Ranger Service, c/o Tigh na Rois, Millbrae Cottage, Bunessan, Isle of Mull, PA67 6DA.  We won’t be able to return any of your creatures but we can promise them a starring role in our outdoor exhibition next summer!  Some mice have already got in on the act!

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These two mice have been busy nibbling hazelnuts from their stash

Emily

 

What a summer!

Another update from us here on the Ross, but also a fond farewell from me as my time on the island volunteering with the Ranger Service draws to a close – what a summer it’s been! Some fantastic wildlife encounters and successful events along with unbelievable weather for the first few weeks of my stay have definitely made this a summer to remember.

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Iona sunsets are just something else…

It’s been great to experience such a wide range of wildlife survey techniques in some amazing locations – from monitoring Storm Petrel chicks on Staffa to surveying plants under the dramatic cliffs of Burg, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is an actual day job! A couple of times this summer Emily and I have been helping Lynne Farrell, the county recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles, update her plant records – most recently on Burg coinciding with our own plant survey, and earlier in the season we were lucky enough to go out to Little Colonsay on Mark Jardine’s boat. Here we saw (and learnt) loads of interesting wildflower species, including the vibrant Bloody Cranesbill.

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B. Marie moored at Little Colonsay

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Bloody Cranesbill

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Beneath the cliffs of Burg

We’ve also had a couple of successful events recently – Abbie, who was doing summer work experience with us, held a survival skills event at Tiroran forest which included building a rather impressive den and then foraging for plants to make tea out of at the end. A great day had by all, even if the fire took a few valiant attempts to get going! The next week I was back at Tiroran leading an Eagle Hide walk, where we had nice views of a white-tailed eagle soaring over the treetops in the distance. I also organised and lead my own event recently – a drizzly yet interesting morning on Uisken beach exploring the rockpools and the beach, finding lots of cool species including breadcrumb sponge and by-the-wind sailors.

 

In mid-July I went to work with the NTS ranger team at Ben Lawers NNR for a couple of weeks, a very different landscape to what I’m used to on Mull. Here I got to experience some of the more land management perspectives of rangering including bracken bashing, tree planting with an NTS Trailblazer camp and path maintenance. The weekend that I arrived coincided with the launch of Chris Packham’s Bioblitz campaign – the team at Ben Lawers took on the challenge of 24 hours of biological recording, and we were the first site for Chris Packham and his team to visit, resulting in a very long but enjoyable day out recording on the hill. Being at Ben Lawers was great to experience working in a team of rangers, and my thanks go out to team for making me feel so welcome there.

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Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers behind

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Looking down the glen

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Chris Packham chatting to dragonfly expert Ruary Mackenzie

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The truck on it’s holidays

And finally, how can I not talk about some wildlife encounters whilst I’ve been here on Mull? You will have read my previous blog post about the evening trip to Staffa and the multitude of basking sharks, which still is a massive highlight for me, but it’s been a great few months overall for wildlife. Recently Emily and I were out on top of the cliffs at Burg, just walking to our National Plant Monitoring Scheme plots, when a family of golden eagles casually cruised by at eye-level. What a treat! By far the best Goldie sightings I’ve ever had. Along with that, I just can’t tire of seeing white-tailed eagles – looking up to the sky and seeing this unmistakeable ‘flying barn door’ is such a fantastic privilege.

Somehow, I managed to go the whole of June and July without seeing an otter, on the coastline that is supposedly so famous for otters, and I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about. However, when my boyfriend and parents were over visiting a couple of weeks ago, an otter conveniently showed it’s face and allowed us to watch roll about preening in the seaweed. And typically, I continued to see another 2 otters in that same week!

Along with the west-coast signature eagles and otters, this summer has been great for hen harrier sightings and lots of interesting moths and butterflies. I’ve also learnt loads of wildflowers – Emily has put up with my consistent pointing and saying “ooh what’s that?” for the last few months, so for that I’m very grateful for her patience!

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Making friends on Staffa

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View from the back of Fingal’s Cave during site tour with repair contractor – cave access is still out of bounds but walkway repairs are well underway!

Overall, volunteering with the ranger service has been such a valuable experience, and I’m so thankful for being given this opportunity. I’ve learned a countless number of new skills, met some great people and seen some fantastic wildlife.

I’m going to miss this place far too much, so I’m sure Mull will see me again soon!

Cheers

Georgia

We’re still here!

Could be what our wildlife is thinking after a very mixed-up season.  Late spring, hot dry weather with the occasional sudden stormy wet day to contend with and now autumn colour seems to be creeping in early.  The Ross of Mull rangers are still here too – not much news from us lately I know, so let’s catch up!

In early June we had a group of enthusiastic volunteers on a working holiday, the National Trust for Scotland’s Thistle Camp scheme, visiting Burg.  A great chance for us to get all sorts of maintenance tasks tackled with many willing pairs of hands.  We had scheduled the camp earlier than usual hoping to survey our rare Slender Scotch Burnet Moths and much to our relief, numbers were the highest for several years.  These small but beautiful insects are only on the wing for a few weeks each June and it seems they have shifted their flight period to earlier in the year.  Most of the feral goats however were nowhere to be seen on our walk around the Ardmeanach peninsula, perhaps they had travelled elsewhere in search of water during this unusual dry spell?  However it wasn’t a wasted day as we were able to make good use of the walk by splitting into groups and one group set up some new plots for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme which will now be checked twice each summer.  The Thistle Campers also tackled repointing work on Burg’s bothy which is undergoing restoration, cleared out ditches and pulled bracken to improve moth habitat and reduce damage to our archaeology.  Many thanks everyone!

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Slender Scotch Burnet Moth

The same week Georgia and I led a walk to the fascinating St Martin’s caves on Iona.  A great place to visit as it’s quite hidden away and only accessible at low tide.  Sadly the rain poured down but the few hardy souls who joined us had an interesting time learning about crofting, geology and seaweed!

StMartinscaves

St Martin’s Caves

Georgia has been working on a productivity survey of one of Iona’s shag colonies.  Unfortunately a day of heavy rain amongst weeks of sunshine caught them off guard and lots of nests have been washed away.  Shags do stagger their breeding times so we’ll keep an eye on things to see whether they can rebuild and lay more eggs or whether they’ll give up and wait until next year.

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Shags nesting at Pigeon’s Cave.  Photo credit Alan Foulkes.

In late June we had another lovely walk along the coast at Carsaig, plenty to see including ringed plover chicks like little balls of fluff on stilts running amongst the rocks, and interesting fossils on the beach at low tide.  It was almost too hot though so some of the group enjoyed going behind a waterfall into the coolness of the cave beyond.

It’s been great having local girl Abbie Cato on work experience with us during the summer holidays.  Living at Knockvologan she was the ideal person to help us out with her knowledge of Erraid on a guided walk around the tidal island.  She’s also lent a hand with several other events including our stand at Bunessan Show and our summer nature club on Iona, for which we had 18 children busy with a treasure hunt learning about what nature does for us, and an afternoon of art and games on the beach thinking about what we can do for nature.  Both Georgia and Abbie are working on their John Muir Awards and have contributed an article to Young Scot’s My Story 365 as part of the Year of Young People.

 

Photo credits: Tim Sparks

With the warm weather it’s been a good year for butterfly sightings – some of our highlights have been a rare Marsh Fritillary in the office garden, the lovely Scotch Argus and the Grayling with its camouflage pattern on the underside of the wings – and we have been promoting the Big Butterfly Count at our events including our stand at Uisken Games where we were kept busy with sea creature facepainting and making seed bombs and badges.

Our Biodiversity Day in the garden at the Ross of Mull Historical Centre turned up some great moths from our (harmless) trap set overnight, including the stunning Garden Tiger and the less common Old Lady, last recorded on Mull back in 2009!

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Gold spot moth

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Cockscomb Prominent moth

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Old Lady moth

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Moth trap in action

Add to the mix helping out with a Keats-themed historical walk at Derrynaculen…

 

Photo credits: Abbie Cato

…looking at history in the landscape around Iona with a lovely American family, plant surveys at Burg, more bird surveys and visiting archaeologists on Staffa (where repair work has commenced on the cave walkway) and leading eagle walks at Tiroran forest and it’s been a very full and interesting summer so far.

Until next time…

Emily

It’s show time……

Another month goes by and it is my turn to write the Ranger Blog, not quite sure where the time goes but it is certainly disappearing fast.

We have been very lucky with the weather this summer so far, and according to the weather forecasters, with global warming we should expect more of these hots summers, sadly it also goes with wet winters.

 

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Ben More in the sun from Ulva

So what has been going on?

The flowers continue to bloom on the Machair at Calgary and we have a pretty good species list, and the height of the grassland (the sward) is also higher, both a good sign that we are heading in the right direction.

Bird’s foot trefoil,
Biting stonecrop
Black medick
Buttercup
Common centaury
Common knapweed
Common mouse ear
Common ragwort
Common sorrel
Common spotted orchid
Common stalk’s bill
Common valerian
Creeping thistle
Daisy
Eyebright
Fairy flax
Flag iris
Harebell
Hawkbit/cat’s ear
Hedge woundwort
Horseshoe vetch
Kidney vetch
Lady’s bedstraw
Meadow rue (common?)
Meadowsweet
Milkwort
Mossy saxifrage
Mouse-ear hawkweed
Nettle
Oxe-eye daisy
Pyramidal orchid
Red clover
Ribwort plantain
Selfheal
Silverweed
Spear thistle
Thyme
White clover
Yarrow

 

Calgary Flowers

Calgary Flowers by Carolyne Charrington

We have changed our ‘Fun in the sun’ children’s fun mornings to ‘Going Wild’ (as it always rained) and those that attended did just that, with a selection of bug hunts and environmental games and activities. It was great to have such an enthusiastic bunch and the sun did shine this year.

We held our annual fishing competition up on Loch Frisa, and Connor won the special junior cup again this year presented in honour of his Great Grandpa, Lachie McDowall. He seems hard competition to beat but Struan and Theresa gave him a run for his money. Jim MacFadden won the senior prize.DSCN2252Although off duty I had a lovely afternoon at the Uisken Games yesterday catching up with lots of acquantainces that I had not seen for a while and managing a toss of the haggis as part of the beach games. Great fun was had by all.

 

The Iona Ferry

We are preparing for the Salen and Bunessan show and hope to attract lots to our stand to try out our educational and fun activities.

By Jan Dunlop.

 

Scorcher at Scallastle!

So if you hadn’t noticed, it has been boiling hot on Mull…

*wipes sweat from forehead*

… and our events have been hotting up too!

Our event this week ‘Hike up Scallastle’ was tough and the scorching sun didn’t make it any easier. We had a small group of four, starting in the car park we checked our water supplies and insect repellent (boy was it needed!) then set off up the gravel track.

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As we made our way up the track there were dozens of cinnibar moth catterpillars munching their way through the ragwort. Our first species of the day and an interesting one at that.
We continued be drawn in by the caterpillar covered ragworts until our attention was caught be a real island star, a MALE HEN HARRIER!

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We watched the harrier dancing above trees until it was out of sight. What a captivating first 10 minutes we’d had.
As we proceeded on I was talking (or maybe boasting…) about a garden tiger moth caterpillar I had found at Tiroran forest and then as if by magic Nick found a dead one right on the track!

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Seeing as so far any animal we had talked about had appeared in some shape or form I tried my luck with giraffe and mammoth, but unfortunately neither beast made an appearance. As the biting insects homed in on us we quickened the pace and had almost got to the bridge but something caught my eye… CARNIVOROUS PLANTS!

There were both round-leaved sundew and butterwort on the moist boggish ground by the bridge. Some of them even had unlucky midges caught in their traps.  As we started the steep part of the walk, sundews filled the side of the track much to the amazement of Nancy who walks at Scallastle regularly but had never noticed them before. As we got closer to the next bridge I noticed what I thought was a fritillary flying just ahead. So I marched forward to get a closer look and sure thing it was a small pearl-bordered fritillary! We then found a couple more floating above the water and even managed to get the scope on them for a closer look.

I then went to look for some smooth newts I had seen up there a week ago but the pool they were in had dried up. Nothing left but a toadlet hiding in the flakey mud. The final incline was ahead of us and it was a real scramble, but the bench at the top plus our packed lunches were calling. With the sun still beating down on us, the rest at the top was needed.

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While we tucked into our lunches, or an apple in my case, there was a tree pipit perched and calling right in front of us. Suddenly it flew off and we could hear a couple more pipits calling too, although this call was slightly higher and more frequent. SPARROWHAWK! A male and it flew right past us and perched on a tree towards the ridge. I quickly positioned the scope but sods law just as it was in the frame it flew off. As we rested and scanned the mountains a grey wagtail flew over calling in its usual manner. We were almost ready to start heading back down to the carpark when Nancy spotted a bird near the summit. I got the scope on it and it was another island star, a GOLDEN EAGLE!

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We watched the eagle soaring around for a few minutes before it flew out of sight, this felt a natural time for us to descend back to the carpark.
We had almost made it back to the carpark when we found this…

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A Dark giant horsefly, they are almost 3cm long and can give one heck of a bite. Hence why I crushed it with my heal… sorry if that offends you.

Before I sign off here I just want to thank Nancy, Yvonne, Jenny and Nick for making the walk a real pleasure!

Cian

Here up the north end of Mull we have been making the most of this fine weather.

The Lighthouse path, Tobermory is just about completed with the last of the steps signs and benches going in. All the feedback from visitors and locals has been so appreciate it makes all the marching along in 6 inches of mud this time last year seem so far away.

DSCN2231Calgary Bay and the machair are also looking good, Last year we had a donation page which allowed us to fence of the machair and thus regulate the grazing of the sheep in partnership with the grazier. Last year there were many more flowers but this year for the first time we have seen the reintroduction of orchids. Species seen so far this year are bird’s foot trefoil, buttercup, daisy, oxe-eye daisy, white and red clover, milkwort, lady’s bedstraw, thyme, stonecrop, hawkweed, yarrow and Northern Marsh Orchid. It is planned to do another transect survey in July to see what we have compared to when we did it this time last year. We had a beach clean and catch up a couple of weeks ago and it was lovely to see a mix of locals and visitors all helping to tidy up the beach and pull thistles – a rather prickly job left to those with heavy duty gloves.

I had a lovely morning in Aros Park with Tobermory P1 and 2. We did lots of environmental based running around games and then built a hedgehog home. The morning was finished off with a sausage sizzle and tent building on the lawn.

On the 20th of June we had a lovely guided walk around Ardmore and again the weather was kind to us. The flowers along the path edges were beautiful but all wildlife was lying low except the peacock caterpillars.

We have been so lucky with the weather so far this year so let’s hope it continues for a bit yet

Jan

…and the sun shone down

Breaching Basking Sharks and Bombing Bonxies

This week it’s my turn for a blog post, a new member of the team – I’m Georgia, the volunteer summer assistant ranger. My first couple of weeks in the position have been full of exciting things, complemented by this continuous amazing weather (something I’ve not been used to on previous trips to Mull I must admit).

Views from the ferry

On my first day we had a charcoal making event up at Neil’s place in North Bunessan forest. We built a bonfire over the charcoal oven, and whilst that was burning we had a go at constructing a prototype reciprocating (self-supporting) roof for Neil’s roundhouse that he is working on. A very chilled out, enjoyable day with frequent stops for tea and cake of course – I’ve been told on a couple of occasions that Mull is ‘cake island’, which I’m beginning to believe and am more than okay with!

Neil enjoyed making me stand on things for a ‘captivating photo’

At the bonfire

Last Thursday was World Otter Day up at Bunessan Primary, so we spent the afternoon up there helping with various activities – I was on face-painting, and by the end of the day we were surrounded by lots of little otters running around! After school nature club came afterwards, this week with the theme being midges, so we went for a walk and found lots of bogmyrtle and insectivorous plants such as butterwort and sundew, followed by a fun quiz full of weird and wonderful midge facts.

world otter day

On Monday, Emily and I went over to Iona to do a shag colony survey and then a midnight corncrake survey, where we were very kindly given dinner and a place to stay by staff at the Abbey. Iona is such a lovely wee island, it was great to see in the sunshine and all the wildlife that came with it – countless meadow pipts and skylarks noisily parachuting all over the moors, stylish wheatears doing their best poses perched on fence posts, my first red admiral butterfly of the year and then of course hearing that unmistakeable rasping of corncrakes at dusk. What a place!

Sunset over Iona

Natural things that all have the same describing word in common

The end result!

This week we had a school trip with Class 2 (P5 to 7) to Tiroran forest, based on the lovely ‘Lost Words’ book by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris, so the focus was all about using describing words when considering nature and the kids got to make a book each from the activities set out for them. These included using a stone to rub various plants onto paper for their cover pages, along with finding different things on the forest floor to draw and describe. After lunch we assembled the books and visited the eagle hide, managing to catch a glimpse of the chick. The kids also had a lot of fun keeping an eye out for letters formed in natural objects, taking photos of each one to compile together to make the alphabet. A successful and fun day had by all, despite the midges determined to stop us!

‘Lost words’

Shark’s fins often tilt because of the size!

Finally, the highlight of my time on Mull so far has to be the evening trip to Staffa, an event run by the ranger service in collaboration with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and the Turus Mara. We set out in the blazing sunshine, eyes peeled and eagerly scanning the water, which was getting calmer and calmer as we got ever closer to Staffa. That was when we heard the shout we’d all been waiting for from Colin, the skipper – BASKING SHARK! Everyone scrambled to get a view as the huge and distinctive dark triangular sail for a dorsal fin cut through the mirror-calm sea. It was honestly exciting beyond belief. From then, the basking sharks just seemed to multiply, cropping up all over the place as they cruised along scooping up microscopic plankton. In the end, Pippa (community engagement manager for the HWDT) reckoned we had seen at least 8 different individuals, as well as several glimpses of porpoises and a Minke whale. Not bad for one boat trip I’d say!

Basking shark dorsal fin

Bonxie

Whilst we were on Staffa myself, Cian and Meryl from Mull Eagle Watch set off to circumnavigate the island, counting nesting Shags and Fulmars on the cliffs. We didn’t have long on the island (as we’d spent too long gawking at basking sharks from the boat, a fair excuse I reckon), so we had to yomp around at quite a pace – however, that didn’t stop the wildlife encounters. As we walked round, we flushed a couple of snipe and came across lots of pipits, various gull and wader species and a pair of beastly Bonxies (great skuas). We must have passed close to their nest site, as they began to circle and swoop low over the ground towards us – time for Cian to get a few pics then get out of there! As we came back to the pier, there were lots of puffins still sat on the water and a few harbour seals chilling on the rocks in the evening sun, with the backdrop of a large tell-tale dorsal fin further out in the water.

Love-struck Skuas on a date

Back on the boat, Colin very kindly did another round-trip of the island so that we could have a count of the nesting survey species from a different angle, then we set off back towards Mull. It was amazing to see the sun setting over Staffa and the Treshinsh Isles, but even more amazing when Pippa shouted ‘BREACH!!’ in time for us to see a basking shark actually breach out of the water! I couldn’t believe it, seeing this massive ancient fish haul itself into the air and land with an enormous splash under the sunset. It was such a rare event to witness, and for that all of the staff and passengers on the trip couldn’t be luckier. Overall, a fantastic evening – I expected it to be good, but not that good!

Staffa in all its glory

This morning we had a lovely walk at Tireregan nature reserve with a group of artists from the UK and Norway. We walked to the old oak tree, pointing out interesting wildlife and plants along the way, and it was nice to hear about similarities and differences between Scottish and Norwegian landscapes. We then walked to get a view of the old village, and on the way back came across lots of golden ringed dragonflies, a cuckoo and a distant male hen harrier.

Artists for the (w)ord project

Anyway, enough from me and apologies for the lengthy blog post, but there has been a lot to write about! I’m looking forward to whatever else the summer brings.

Photo credits to Charley for the charcoal day, Emily for the Tiroran school trip/Tireregan walk and Cian for the shark and skua pics.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings,

Georgia.

Wildlife is full of suprises!

Firstly I would just like to introduce myself as it’s my first ever ranger service blog. I’m Cian the seasonal ranger for this year. Primarily I have been working on the Mull Eagle Watch project, however I have also been running and planning my own events too.
The first solo event I did was actually covering for our friend Kerry over at the Glengorm wildlife project.
This was a guided wildlife walk around the estate for a lovely couple from Australia who were staying in the castle. They had expressed how much they wanted to see an Otter so I  felt obliged to try my best! As many of you will know Otters can be very elusive and difficult to watch even if there are hundreds on Mull so I did feel a bit of pressure. It was a beautiful day so the stroll down to the shore was filled with sunshine and a variety of birds such as meadow pipits, wheatears and skylarks.

 

Once we were down at the coast we scanned the shoreline for wildlife. The couple were new to most of the species here so the shelducks, shags and oystercatchers were all really exciting to see.

 

Now the hunt for an otter really began, I was scanning and searching every area we could see but no luck. As I cast my gaze slightly further out to sea I noticed a large blondey brown lump on a rock… It was a white-tailed sea eagle! As I scrambled to set the scope up for them to have a look it disappeared. I started ferociously scanning to see where it had gone when something else popped up in my binoculars, an otter!
As we watched it swimming around near a small tidal island we realised there were in fact two there. We continued to watch them swimming around and scaring the gulls as they clambered onto the island. They eventually went out of sight after 45 minutes or so. A real success and relief to have found what they really wanted to see. A great day even if I didn’t get a pic of the otters.

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My next event was back up at Glengorm for a very early dawn chorus walk. A couple of early birds ventured up to join me and we definetly caught the metophorical worm. It was a clear and still morning, perfect for tuning in to the songbirds morning choir. On our way to the woods we spotted a group of mountain hare lounging in a field, this was a real treat as I had only ever seen a one or two in my life.

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Once in the woods the birds did not disappoint, blackcaps and chiffchaffs stole the show. We then meandered to the coast to see what we could find lurking in the sea. On the way there was a whitethroat  calling out from the scrub, sounding like a tiny chainsaw. When we got to the shore we were greeted by some sleepy seals just about waking up. We sat and watched them for a while and they slowly got more awake and then inquisitive. They proceeded to get closer to have a look at us.

 

We then left the seals to walk further along the coast, as we did we found a couple of eider ducks to cap off a magical morning.

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A week later we had a meeting at the office. Before the meeting I had my lunch break at Aros bay, I was watching some red-breasted mergansers when a couple of curlew flew in. I don’t see these birds as much as I have done in other areas so it was quite enjoyable. They suddenly started calling and both took off, as did the gulls and other birds that were on the shore. As I looked up I realised why, a white-tailed sea eagle was flying overhead.IMG_0813

Once this had flown out of sight I tucked into my sandwich only to put it down again as all the birds started calling and flying again. I was anticipating another eagle and sure enough there was another big bird in the sky heading towards me. Although this didn’t look like an eagle through my binoculars, it was really white… an OSPREY! What a lunchtime treat!

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Our meeting was about how the Mull Eagle Watch pair of white-tailed eagles clutch had failed due to an intruding eagle. So we thought we would see how the Tiroran pair were getting on. They had more success so we thought that it would be a great idea to do a ranger service event there. So this week I took a group there with some exciting views. The nest was in full view and we even had one of the pair come and perch in a tree even closer to the hide.IMG_2587

Another great wednesday doing my ranger service duties. Stay tuned for the next few events. For those interested I will be running a guided walk at Fishnish on June 6th. I hope to see some of you there and for those who can’t make it i’ll fill you in on my next blog installment.
Keep your eyes in the skies, Cian.